Illinois' own Mr. Irrelevent
Published: Saturday, May 5, 2012
Updated: Monday, August 27, 2012 16:08
With the draft greenroom empty for days and the late round sleepers already packing for rookie mini-camp, one pick, the last pick, still remained. Certainly, nobody likes to be picked last, and as the final pick of the 2012 NFL draft, Chandler Harnish knows finding relevancy on an NFL team can be challenging, especially for Mr. Irrelevant.
The title Mr. Irrelevant began when wide receiver Kelvin Kirk was selected last in the 1976 NFL Draft, and former USC football player Paul Salata felt it necessary to honor the underdog. Thirty six years later, the tradition continues, now more popular than ever. To accompany being drafted into the NFL, the now prestigious title includes a vacation to California, where during the annual irrelevant week; Mr. Irrelevant will play chairman to numerous events such as a parade and a golf tournament. The winner is also recognized with the “Lowmans Trophy,” which resembles the Heisman Trophy; expect the Lowmans is fumbling a football instead of stiff-arming an opponent such as the Heisman Trophy does. Although most final picks of the NFL Draft met the expectations the award proclaims, some winners have demonstrated an exuberant amount of relevancy throughout their NFL career.
One of the early winners of Mr. Irrelevant, quarterback Bill Kenney, who earned the title in 1978, was everything but irrelevant. After being drafted and eventually cut by the Miami Dolphins, Kenney went on to start at quarterback for the Kansas City Chiefs, passing many of the Chiefs single season passing records along the way. Kenney would earn a Pro Bowl nod in the 1983-84 season, the only Mr. Irrelevant in history to earn such honors. Proving his relevancy outside the pro sports spectrum and into the political one, Kenney went on to become the majority floor leader of the Missouri Senate for two years. The Chiefs continued relying on Mr. Irrelevant’s when they drafted placekicker Ryan Succop with the 256th pick of the 2009 Draft. Although only a kicker, Succop has thrived in the NFL and set a Chiefs rookie record for field goals made (25).
Another player who rigorously contradicted his title of Mr. Irrelevant was Jim Finn, the 253rd pick of the Chicago Bears in 1999. Later that year Finn was released by the Bears and eventually picked up by the New York Giants. With the Giants, the Ivy League fullback out of Pennsylvania blocked for rushing stars like Tiki Barber and helped Barber reach 1,860 rushing yards in 2005, a Giants single season record. Finn would also prove his relevancy off the field. In 2011, Finn and 11 other NFL players filed a lawsuit against the NFL, claiming the NFL didn’t properly treat head injuries of players, which resulted in numerous brain injuries.
In fact most players chosen last in the NFL draft, being named Mr. Irrelevant may be the most prestigious honor they will ever receive. Most Mr. Irrelevants fail to make the 53-man roster. Players like Ryan Hoag, 2003 263rd pick and winner of Mr. Irrelevant, failed to play a game in his short 3-year NFL career. Quite possibly Hoag’s biggest claim to fame outside of his Mr. Irrelevant award, was his appearance on ABC’s The Bachelorette in 2008. Unfortunately, Hoag wasn’t even picked last to receive a rose and was eliminated from the show.
For certain players like Tevita Ofahengaue, being named Mr. Irrelevant was a high point in their career. The former BYU tight end failed to make the stat sheet in the NFL, Ofahengaue did however make a charge sheet in 2011 when he and former NFL running back and BYU teammate Reno Mahe were charged with stealing over $50,000 worth of gasoline.
As for Chandler Harnish, 2012 Mr. Irrelevant, the future may hold something less than a successful NFL career. In the 37 years the Mr. Irrelevant trophy has been awarded, only six players have ever played significant minutes in the NFL. Unfortunately for Harnish, being drafted as quarterback by the Colts presents it’s own set of obstacles. Exactly 252 draft picks before Harnish, the Colts selected quarterback Andrew Luck with No. 1 overall pick. As if being picked last wasn’t pressure enough, now all Mr. Irrelevant has to do is play behind the man thought to be the second coming of John Elway.